Południce (singular: południca) are demons of young women who died before, during or short after their wedding – lost souls of betrohed maidens who didn’t manage to fulfil their fate as a wife. In the oldest tales they are also described as spirits protecting the cultivated plants.
Legend from the city of Kraków (Cracow), one of the oldest cities of Poland and its former royal capital – seat of the Polish kings from the Medieval to Renaissance eras. This story tells also about the semi-legendary king Krak (or Krakus), founder of the city of Kraków who might’ve been living in c. 8th century.
Legend from Warszawa (Warsaw), the capital city of Poland.
Once upon a time there was a sea mermaid who got lost and swam up the Wisła (Vistula) River. After a long journey she decided to take a rest on the riverbank and it happened to be the area where the modern-day Warsaw is located. She looked around, fell in love with the harmonious surroundings and decided to stay.
Biesy (singular: bies) are a personification of all the undefined evil forces in the nature. Once they were placed amongst the most dangerous and the oldest demons in the central and eastern Europe. Their name is derived from Proto-Slavic *bĕsъ, coming from the Proto-Indo-European root *bboidh-, which meant “causing fear and terror”.
Biesy can penetrate souls of individuals and control their physical actions, what eventually leads their victims into insanity (thus the adjective “zbiesiony” in the Polish language which describes someone under evil influence or devoid of free will and charisma). Sometimes they are waiting in ambush around remote crossroads, and the travellers who see animals making unusual sounds, for example cats crowing or roosters barking, are warned to turn back not to cross their path with a bies.
Biesy live in primeval forests, swamps and deep waters, usually far from human settlements. They are also believed to be guarding treasures hidden in the ground. The brave warriors who venture into their territory are warned with shill shrieks and malicious giggles.
Over the centuries, in the process of Christianization, the word bies / bes (as well as the very similar Slavic demon czart / czort / chort) became synonymous with the word “devil” in many Slavic languages, and many Slavic folk tales describe them as devil’s minions.
Latawce [pronounced la-tav-tse] and their female counterparts latawice [la-ta-vee-tse] were demons believed to be souls of the aborted or stillborn children, but also of people who died suddenly (for example hanged criminals). Originally, they weren’t seen as particularly hostile to people, though could be dangerous due to their restless nature, identified with the unpredictable forces of the wind.
Boginki [singular form: boginka] are female personifications of the wild forces of the nature in the old-Slavic Polish mythology. They are seen as demons either neutral or hostile to people, often attacking women during childbirth, replacing the newborns with “odmieńce” (changelings), startling the horses and cattle or destroying the fishing nests.
Appearing in many forms and subtypes, they could’ve been living in swamps, lakes, rivers, forests, bushwoods or mountains.
Zmory [singular form: zmora] are vicious half-demonic creatures. They’re emaciating the living by feeding on their vital forces but aren’t able to kill them directly. Zmory are night creatures, connected to sleep disturbances.
Płanetnicy* (singular form: płanetnik, pronounced pwa-net-neek) are the ‘shepherds of the clouds‘, described in numerous Polish folk tales. They are believed to be ancient spirits with a great power over various atmospheric phenomena, able to control the clouds by moving them around on long ropes. That way they can bring for example nourishing rain or damaging ice storms to the crop fields, or maintain a good weather for villages.
Błędne ogniki or simply ogniki [singular form: błędny ognik] are demons guarding the graves where forgotten treasures are hidden. They are the lost souls of penitents, the impious or deceitful people, particularly of the fraudulent surveyors or unjust landlords. They live in marshes and swamps.
One of the oldest (if not THE oldest) of all Polish legends. Begins blurred in the mists of the past, when ‘all Slavs were inhabitating one land’ and were ‘speaking one language’. That story is put roughly around the year 550 AD by some historians who point at the era of the migration period, but its real origins are still a mystery.
The three brothers from this legend are symbolic founders of three Slavic states – the brother Lech (founder of the early Poland), Czech (founder of the Czech Republic), and Rus (associated with Russia in many popular versions of the legend, but more probably telling about the Ruthenian people).